Amanda Houle, PsyD '04Clinical Psychology
Dr. Amanda Houle is now an associate faculty member in the AUNE Department of Clinical Psychology.
The Birth of a Wellness Center:
How Student, Now Alum and Faculty Member, Blended Physical and Mental Health into One Program
In January 2001, while an Antioch University New England PsyD student, Amanda Houle began a major public service project - a mental health program for expectant mothers at Cheshire Medical Center/Dartmouth-Hitchcock Keene. Many years and a lot of hard work later, the Pregnancy Wellness Program is going strong. The program has served hundreds of women each year since its inception.
“I started this program because of a passion to serve families in need of support,” says Amanda, who is also trained as a doula (one who assists women physically and emotionally during labor). “The combination of my training as a doula and in psychology allows me to do family therapy 'in utero' - it's an exciting blend.”
Removing the Stigma Associated with Mental Health
One of the most important features of the Pregnancy Wellness Program is its location. Housed within the Obstetrics and Gynecology Clinic at the medical center, patients can see a counselor while they are at the clinic for regular appointments. Another bonus: for the past three years no fee has been charged for the services (a fee scale is being considered for the future).
“We reach patients who would not seek out counseling, but who appreciate the help they get once they use our services,” says Amanda. “Offering these services in the OBGYN Clinic removes the stigma of seeking help at a mental health clinic.”
The Pregnancy Wellness Program takes a mind-body approach to mental health, looking at the effects of stress on the mind and body during and after pregnancy. Women can take part in individual and couples therapy, smoking cessation programs, community training, and consulting services.
Research Supports Promise of Program
“Part of the inspiration behind this program is the fact that there are very few programs like it. It is somewhat of a recent trend for programs to consider mental health alongside physical health as important during pregnancy,” says Amanda. “Just ten years ago science began supporting the idea that stress and trauma can result in significant complications in pregnancy, labor, delivery, and adjustment after birth.”
The Pregnancy Wellness Program is a result of collaboration between the medical and mental health fields and community organizations. Amanda interviewed doctors, midwives, physician's assistants, prenatal coordinators, and mental health professionals to determine what services were most needed and the best way to deliver those services.
Amanda still works at the clinic and is now employed by Dartmouth Medical School of Psychiatry. She is also an associate faculty member in the AUNE Department of Clinical Psychology. AUNE students continue to be placed in the program via professor Victor Pantesco and AUNE's Psychological Services Center.